Madoka is a vivid dreamer. She dreams constantly. Sometimes her dreams are flashes of pearly white or stark black. Other times, her dreams are filled with mixed feelings. Many times the dreams linger like an eclipse at the back of her memory. On those days, she feels nostalgic as though the aftertaste of sour candy has never faded. Madoka never discovers why.
“You’re cute today.”
“T-thank you, Homura-chan.”
“Please save yourself.”
“Don’t leave me!”
Sayaka teases she has an active imagination. She wishes she could hide that she has a dream, but Madoka is never able to sidestep Sayaka’s prying eyes. She always sniffs out her insecurities.
On the way to school, Sayaka envelops her in a hug. “I bet you have wild yuri fantasies!” she accuses her, tickling her sides, rattling her from her thoughts.
Hitomi shakes her head but smiles at them.
“O-of course not!” She squeaks in surprise, wriggles, and bites back the urge to giggle. Madoka squeezes out of her grip and tumbles forward, catching her breath. “You know I don’t like anyone in our class.”
Sayaka smirks anyway, and Hitomi puts her hand over her mouth. Madoka knows that neither one of them believe her no matter how many times she pleads with them that she has zero interest in her classmates. They are both too supportive.
She is definitely not Saotome-sensei. Her teacher searches for love in the wrong places, but Madoka prefers to wait for it to happen naturally. She feels no pressure to hurry. Mama makes it clear that she has all the time in the world. Girls her age must enjoy the romantic mystery while it still lasts.
But she doesn’t mind looking to her dreams, for now. Her dreams are clips of phrases, colors, emotions and broken fragments that seem so displaced.
“You have a beautiful smile. It makes my heart…”
Madoka wakes up with glowing red cheeks.
"No matter how many times I… you always…”
On other days, tears dot her pillowcase.
It isn’t until the December before her second year in middle school that the dreams become fleshed out. She has had the odd dreams for five months before the grey edges morph into full color portraits.
Homura stands before her desk. Her hands are clasped behind her back, and her back is straight. She notices she is holding herself rigidly in place.
Madoka looks away from filling in last minute answers on her homework before the bell rings for homeroom. “What’s wrong, Homura-chan?”
Hopping foot to foot, Homura glances everywhere from Madoka’s desk, Madoka herself, and the tiles on the ceiling. Her bottom lip quivers as if she’s choosing her words. Concern is first to come to Madoka as naturally as water flows. Is she too worried to ask for help? Homura’s lips move.
“I like you… a lot…”
The words are barely audible. Madoka squints and cocks her head closer to hear her, deciding it must be important. Homura’s eyes close and she shakes her head vigorously. She groans helplessly.
Oddly, Madoka notices their classmates are staring at Homura. Girls point at her and laugh. They crowd around at the back of the classroom, watching them with wide smirks. Madoka is indignant. She wants to go over to them and give them a piece of her mind for making fun of Homura like that behind her back, but she wants to hear what she has to tell her first.
Before she can question further, she sees bright red. Homura’s hands whip in front of her. Lavish roses stop in front of Madoka’s nose. She gasps, amazed, the sweet and strong perfume of the flowers.
“Will you go out with me!” Homura yells, voice cracking. Her nervousness vibrates on the arched walls, the sunlit glass, the polished wood.
If they weren’t looking before, their classmates’ eyes rounded on them. The room grows silent. Homura hides her face behind the safety of the roses but she hopefully glances at Madoka over the petal rims.
When she wakes up, her exact reply is a forgotten memory. Her heart sings, although she knows she has never met the girl—or has she?—and her face is a foggy cloud in her memory. The next day, she makes a detour with Sayaka and Hitomi on their way to school and passes the local flower shop. Madoka touches the soft petals on the red flowers perched outside. They are not beautiful roses, and their scent is definitely not as sweet as what she remembers.
There are more dreams, too. Homura confesses to her in places that Madoka has only seen in shoujo manga. Madoka’s head is hazy. She knows shoujo manga can’t compare. Homura surprises her each night in new ways at a restaurant, a planetarium, and next to a high waterfall. Madoka isn’t sure if the last one ever actually happened (and why would it have? It was a dream) but she is delighted. The confessions feel fresh and innovative each time.
One thing strikes her as peculiar. It is always the girl telling her how much she likes or loves her first. Not Madoka saying it herself. She doesn’t know why, because if she likes her, she should say it, too!
Through repeated exposure she learns the girl with braids, peaceful eyes, and red-rimmed glasses is named Akemi Homura. She calls her Homura-chan. Apparently she is a dear friend to her and always eventually a lover. Early on in the dreams, Madoka decides it is the mystery she has to overcome like Mama said she should do. She becomes attached to her, fiercely protective. She is upset when Homura does not look happy or is frightened in her dreams.
The dreams are Madoka’s own, right? Madoka is the type of dreamer to imagine stuffed animal paradises rather than someone crying. But Homura does cry and Madoka hugging her close. It works half of the time, but Madoka is left mystified the other half.
Madoka can’t help but hum a tune from one of her favorite magical girl anime before bed. The aim is to lift her spirits and prepare herself for more time with Homura. It seems appropriate because she has a theory based on the number of times Homura appears and disappears within her dream world and the strange energies she feels surrounding her.
One thing led to another and Sayaka has recently started to tell her to visit an upperclassman named Mami. Sayaka says she looks lonely sitting on the school steps. Mami is reclusive, but she is nice and regal. Best of it, Mami watches magical girl anime! Madoka had to reassure her that it was awesome she liked magical girls and not lame at all. Mami is pretty touchy about the subject. She understands.
Her loneliness, her somewhat off-putting airs…
Magical girl. Is that Homura’s true identity? She was able to cast a spell over her so easily! It is a bit of a silly conclusion. But that was why those possibilities are dreams and out of her reach, Madoka knows.
Her luck takes a nosedive when she least expects.
What she opens her eyes to is not what she hopes for. The sky is a mixture of pink and swirling black. The atmosphere feels cold, heavy. There is savage high-pitched laugher somewhere in the distance.
Gunfire. Rapid bullets slice the air all around her. She feels weak, pinned down, unable to move. She looks around herself and does a double take; the pink and white dress attire she wears is bloodied and muddy. An arrowhead and a once arched bow snapped beyond repair lies against her head.
Faint pink light glows around her.
The gunfire recoils in her stomach. Each shot is well-timed to the pounding of blood in Madoka’s ears.
Madoka knows who is causing trouble. She saw them! But what did they look like? No, she should know who it is… Wait, it is what the thing is now, not who it is specially. But does it matter? She feels tired. Madoka has never quite felt so tired in her entire life.
Then, the gunfire ceases.
For a precious second, the world is silent.
She should be happy about that.
Whoever is laughing continues.
Footsteps approach. She can’t lift her head.
When the person comes into view, she can’t quite see them up close at first. They are in thickly veiled shadow, especially their face. Their outfit is similar to hers although it is white and black design instead. By the outline it is a girl and she is holding the gun.
Madoka seizes up. It is all she can do. Is she the one that hurt her? Will she try finishing her off?
No, that doesn’t sound right…
To debunk her predictions, the girl lowers the gun. She tosses the gun and it clatters to the ground feet away from them. The girl hurries to her side and kneels down next to her, leaning over her. Madoka blinks at her and suddenly reaches for her sleeve. She is not in control of her actions anymore.
“This is all my fault,” the girl sobs.
Madoka sighs. The Madoka that is not the Madoka watching this play out. “It’s not your fault, really.”
“You should blame me! I can’t even do this much!”
Desperately, she wants to do something. But she doesn’t. Madoka isn’t upset at all. Instead of being okay, though, Madoka is horrified to watch this. The girl scares her and she doesn’t know why she does. Her other self’s calmness scares her even more.
“Don’t worry,” Madoka says, wincing. She didn’t know if she believed her own words. “I don’t want to die, but… I’m just sorry I can’t do anything else to help. I did all I can do. I believe you can make it.”
The girl shakes her head urgently. “That’s not true!”
Madoka smiles. “Of course it is.”
“I can’t make it without you! Because I-I love you. I couldn’t tell you until the last minute, and now you are… you’re…. Madoka, I always loved you…”
Her body grows heavier by the second. Warm beds hit her skin, but Madoka doesn’t recognize them as tears. There is so much water around them, so much blood. The pink light around her slowly turns black. Madoka realizes the glow is from a gem lying at her side. The edges of it are splintered around the edges to the center. The light swirls like a storm.
The girl picks it up. Madoka wants to tell her “no!” but she knows it won’t hurt anything. She presses her lips to the gem. She kisses it once, twice, and Madoka loses track of how many times she does.
Her body is content to her core. There is no more pain or despair. In fact, she feels comforted even if the world around her falls from her vision. It is right. Everything spirals out of focus and she is okay.
Everything is wrong, but it is also okay.
Madoka reaches out before the world goes black.
Every nerve in her body startles her awake. She chambers for the warmth of her covers to shield her, yanks them towards her body, pants heavily. She rolls out of bed to get away from the last images of the dream haunting her there, wrapping the covers around her frame. Madoka sits down on the floor.
Perspiration drips down her forehead.
Her once fortified and safe room feels like the belly of a giant monster. Madoka rocks back and forth.
The girl in that dream was terrifying and abnormal. The thought of dying there terrifies her, and she wishes she could have dreamt of Homura instead. Homura would have made it all better. The dream had been horrible and the girl… she didn’t know. The girl was not Homura, and she had been nice to her, but she never, ever wanted to see her again.
The dream is not ordinary.
From then on, she is scared to lay her head on her pillow and fall asleep. She does not know what will come for her, and she fears she isn’t ready for it.
Mama notices that she isn’t sleeping lately, and she talks to her late at night. Papa makes her favorite for dinner. Tatsuya shows her his new toy and insists she plays with him. With so many good vibes around her, Madoka feels like she is invincible afterwards.
So, as nature calls, she must give sleep’s lullaby.
To her regret, that girl visits her dreams for a few more nights, too, and she wonders if she has a “bad girl” complex. Killing and a darkened sky… but that kind of thing is… Why did it turn out this way?
Fortunate as dreams are, her real body never mirros the pain. She feels numb to the ripped open wounds, but she knows she should be in agonizing pain, and the pool of blood around her proves the fact. That is always a constant she can rely on and eventually the scenery is familiar to her. The girl feels closer to her as the world opens up. The shadows usually obscure her face and Madoka knows she is on the precipice of envisioning it for herself. Closer she comes, and yet closer, until she is in clear sight. She sees her face after the girl kneels down at her side.
But the girl doesn’t have glasses, so the lack of that detail throws Madoka off for the slightest of minutes.
And then with a sick lurch it strikes her the girl she knows does not always wear glasses, nor does she always look meek. The wails and screams of her name prove that, too; the wavering voice is similar to Homura’s voice from Madoka’s other experiences.
In these newfound dreams, Homura’s expression is void and drawn. Her glare is hollow and bottomless. Homura… is not Homura. That person is not her beloved Homura. But she is Homura at the same time. Now, she dreads dreaming and wonders why on earth Homura is the polar opposite of herself.
The landscape shift and change and lull in a purgatory between happiness and sadness as each night arrives, which Is delightful in its own macabre way and mortifying. She remembers more things she should not discover. Luckily, she forgets some of the surrealism too confusing to comprehend. Madoka’s vivid look at life is both a blessing and a curse.
Now, Homura is shadows and light. The laughs and screams are background noise except her visions of Homura and how she reacts. The fear and odd pangs of joy hint at the truth concealing itself.
Madoka never quite lets that image of Homura drift from her mind’s eye again. Their connection had been murky like a wall blocking her path. Madoka knows she is opening the gate to what is buried.
Homura is the one in pain.
She wishes she had seen it before.
Determined, Madoka wants to change things.
Sitting on the edge of her bed, she breathes deeply before she sleeps, willing the soul inside of her to make things right. Do something that was not as passive as she has been in her dreams. She wants Homura happy. It is that simple of an endeavor. By no means is she an artist, but she glances at the sketch of Homura on her nightstand she drew weeks ago to piece her thoughts together, imprinting that vision of Homura in her foremost thoughts. If she wishes hard enough while awake her innermost feelings might be immortalized in her visions.
Adrenaline pumps through her veins. The sky and metal spirals around her, and the wind rushes past her face, chilling her. The sky is mesmerizing orange and pink. There is screeching and laughter.
Madoka flinches. She knows what this is. She has fallen from the sky in her dreams after fighting more times than she can count. She doesn’t want that to happen to her again—the fall of death. Once again, she is prepared to crash into the ground under her, feel the brunt of the cement dig into her flesh.
No, she doesn’t want to have this vision again! This is what she had grasped at straws to avoid. And she tried so hard to do what she for herself.
Why aren’t her wishes enough to bring her peace?
The world rocks and comes to a stop.
When she opens her eyes, Madoka realizes she is waving her arms around. She doesn’t see blood, and she doesn’t see destruction. She peeks through her fingers and drops her arms to her sides. The screams around her are… filled with joy?
“This is fun, wasn’t it, Homura-chan?” she hears herself ask. She does not sound distraught.
There is no response. Homura always responds, so this is worrying. Madoka wonders what is wrong, and she turns her head to see where Homura is.
Homura is across from her. Her eyes are screwed shut. Frowning, Madoka is about to say something, but Homura tightly grips the steering wheel in front of her and smiles weakly. Madoka realizes in the standstill moment they are both separated by small, round cars. She is strapped into a bumper car’s seat and can freely move her hands as she pleases.
She grins. “See, I told you that you’d hit me.”
Homura blushes. She seems unsure for a minute and steers off to the left. “These go faster than I thought they did. I’ve never… done this before…”
Madoka looks around at the construction of blue metal. Off to the sides, people are waving at couples in the small rink, some videotaping the moment. She is surprisingly better at this than she thought, but she gives Homura chances to strike her back. So far she’s doing pretty well while she adjusts to it.
“Eh? No way! You’re doing really great,” Madoka assures, laughing alongside the people around them. Homura is frail because of her heart, Madoka knows, but she seems in her element. They can leave whenever she wants. “Nothing bad can happen while I’m here with you, Homura-chan! I won’t allow it. After all, I like you a lot. You know that, right?”
Homura is lost for a beat and the blush intensifies. She glances away from her. Nodding, she zooms forward and bumps against Madoka’s car again. And she doesn’t know how many times they turn and chase each other in the rink but it doesn’t matter.
Madoka stares at her ceiling when she wakes up. Her stomach feels fuzzy, like a ship on a sea, a sensation she hasn’t felt for a while. But she has finally revealed her feelings. Deep down, she isn’t sure if they were her feelings from the start or it she had to fall in love on her own accord, or if they were another Madoka’s feelings from far, far away.
All she hopes is, one day she will meet Homura without being in her own one-sided slumber.